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Sunday, 11 June 2017

An Ode to the Cabin in the Woods

It's been a couple of months since I wrote a blog. I feel like my inspiration gets suppressed when I've been in the city too long, such as was the case the first half of this year. I also reverted to old behavioral patterns, as I returned to familiar surroundings in the Toronto area. It was great reconnecting with family, but now it's time for me to get out there and have new experiences again.

So where am I now?

From now through to October, I will be living in a cabin in the woods! It is located just north of Toronto by about 2 hours. And it's not just a dinky little room with a bed. There's an attached outdoor kitchen, protected by mosquito netting. And just steps away from my door, in a clearing in the forest, is a cute little pond.



Nothing beats breakfast by the pond

And the best part of this idyllic setting? No Wifi! That means I get to disconnect from society, and connect to nature, and with myself. I've been here two weeks, and I already feel my apathy giving way to creativity and inspiration, as I distance myself from some old patterns (screen watching, lying around indoors), and reengage in some healthy, energizing patterns (sleeping more, consistent dental hygiene, mindful practices).

Despite having no Wifi, I have some very ambitious plans out in my little slice of the woods. Firstly, I want to read through my pile of books. Then I plan on learning guitar, slacklining, poi, and potentially try my hand at producing music.




So why am I here?

I've found a part job, part homestay, where I am helping the landowner to build his off grid timber frame house. Off grid means that the house will be completely self sufficient, deriving its electricity from solar, sourcing water from the local well, and treatment of rain water, grey water, and waste water on-site through various synthetic and natural filters, ready to infiltrate back into the ground.

And timber frame is a more traditional way of building a house, out of larger structural members, enabling them to last a lot longer. By contrast, most houses today are constructed out of stick framing, which only uses smaller pieces of wood, such as two by fours. Stick frames are cheaper and easier to build, but don't last as long.

The walls will also be constructed out of straw bale, a sustainable resource which is also very effective at heat rentention, and moisture wicking.

So far, so good on the job. My bosses Simon and Talia have been great and we have natural chemistry. Actually, they approach our arrangement as more of a partnership than a hierarchy of boss and worker. And my engineering education has been handy in helping me pick up timber framing techniques. Considering I have zero building experience, I am very grateful for this opportunity to learn while on the job. And the cabin is a great perk!

I connected with Simon through www.goodwork.ca. For Canadians out there looking for genuine work, I highly recommend it. There's a variety of postings, ranging from PhD jobs, all the way down to farming homestays, offering rewarding work that has genuine social and environmental impacts.
Our workshop is actually a plastic roofed greenhouse. Lots of natural lighting, and big roll up windows for ventilation
Timber frames must fit together snug like puzzle pieces. Here we are testing one section of the frame

So why did I take on this job?

The bigger picture of the past three years of my life has been to have new experiences, learn and build on my skills, and find new ways to make a living in line with my life goals and passions. I feel like I have a lot to offer the world, and am not meant to be pigeon holed and slotted in a cubicle. I think the skills I will learn on this project will come in handy in the future, as I foresee a not-so-smooth transition into leaner times ahead.

I have many ideas in my head and passions in my heart, that I want to put into action, but in reality, I'm a bit scared, and I still don't truly know what one thing I want to do with my life, and the only way to figure that out is to try them out. Thus, I'm very thankful to have been given this opportunity to try out carpentry. And not just carpentry but, specifically, timber framing, a fading but unique and challenging way of building. I'm sure these skills will come in handy in the future, no matter if it becomes a career or not.

You can follow Simon's Instagram for updates on the house construction, at:
https://www.instagram.com/preservingearth/

Finally, if you're in my neck of the woods, please feel free to contact me! Come join me in my quaint little cabin, or we can go for a hike at the local waterfall.

Happy summer,
~Andrew

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